Budgetary support to I&B upped 3 billion

NEW DELHI: The Budgetary support to the information and broadcasting ministry for 2004-05 fiscal year has been hiked by over Rs 3,000 million, signifying hectic activity to be undertaken by the ministry.

But the total grant-in-aid to pubcaster Prasar Bharati has been shaved off by Rs 320 million, while its loan component has been upped to fund its expansion of broadcast services.

According to the Budget papers laid in Parliament by finance minister Jaswant Singh, while presenting an interim Budget today, I&B ministry's share stands at Rs 9,550 million, up from Rs 6475 million allocated to it in the last fiscal year.

The hike in the ministry's allocation was explained by officials as money obtained, by and large, for development of broadcasting services of Doordarshan and All India Radio managed by Prasar Bharati and other related


So significantly, the loan amount to Prasar Bharati has seen an increase over last fiscal from Rs 690 million to Rs. 1,690 million.

Under the Plan head, Prasar Bharati would get about Rs. 1540 million, while under the non-plan head it would receive Rs 8210 million.

The Budget papers say that out of the I&B ministry budgetary allocation, a sizeable amount would go to Prasar Bharati as a lumpsum for undertaking developmental projects in the remote north-eastern region of the country and Sikkim, bordering China.

The loan to Prasar Bharati has been explained as money to finance the capital expenditure, while the remaining amount of the ministry's allocation would be spent on sundry activities like expansion of the photo division and

capital expenditure on building a swanky new information centre.

In a year when general elections would be held, the government is sparing no effort to reach out to the farthest corner of the country where cable and/or terrestrial transmission don't reach.

One of the ambitious projects undertaken by Prasar Bharati is to start a free-of-subscription direct-to-home television service covering the whole India, but mainly targeted at the north-eastern region.

The KU-band DTH service is slated to go on air early April.

Government officials explained that an increase in I&B ministry's budgetary allocation, mainly meant for Prasar Bharati, was possible because of active cooperation and comprehension of the issue by Planning Commission secretary, RR Shah, who earlier was with the I&B ministry and had held additional charge of director-general of DD.

The Planning Commission is a government think-tank on economic policies.

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